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Freshwater aquarium fish are important food source in many tropical countries




Aquarium fish, an important food source in the tropics


Freshwater aquarium fish, an important food source in the tropics
mongabay.com
May 5, 2005

Those fish in your home aquarium may be important food sources in their native lands. According to figures recently released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Fisheries Department many fish typically kept by aquarium owners figure significantly in the daily nutrition of people in tropical Africa, Asia, and South America. There’s something to consider the think about the next time you pick up new pets at your local fish store.

In South America many of the larger catfish (algae-eating Plecos and shovel-nosed catfish), characins (like Pacus and headstanders), and cichlids (Oscars, peacock bass) are widely harvested from rivers by local people. The Oscar, a popular ornamental fish in aquaria worldwide, is fished extensively in its Amazon home. In 2002, FAO estimates that around 183 metric tons of Oscars were taken out of rivers and streams in South America. In comparison, in Africa some 12,567 metric tons Mormyrids — a family which includes the elephant-nosed fish — were harvested from inland waters in 2002.


Arowana dinner.

The Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) is a popular tropical freshwater aquarium species. You can learn more about the Arowana here

Overfishing is a problem in some freshwater habitats — even the enormous Amazon river suffers from over exploitation of its fisheries. For example, the Arapaima – which in the past was regularly found to exceed 10 feet in length (3 m) – is rarely encountered today at a size greater than 8 feet (2.45 m).

Commercial Fishing in the Amazon: A case study

In the mid 1980s, the FAO Fisheries Department did a case study on fishing in the Amazon. The study, contained within Management systems for riverine fisheries by Thayer Scudder and Thomas Conelly, found a rapidly developing commercial fishery which involved both traditional fishermen and outsiders. The growth of the Amazonian fishing industry in the case study coincided with the completion of the Trans-Amazon highway in the early 1970s which caused the population of newly connected Amazon towns to burgeon. The resulting population increase produced new demand for protein that was met by the expansion of fishing operations on the Amazon and its surrounding tributaries.

The authors note that “During the same period, more sophisticated types of fishing gear, most importantly nylon gill and seine nets, were introduced into the area. In addition, with the growing local and export market for fish products, ice plants were opened to help in the preservation of fish for long distance shipment… [and] large-capacity motorized fishing vessels were also introduced.” The result, a significant increase in the productivity of the fisheries. However, this gain was short-lived. The authors conclude that “though there is apparently no evidence that heavily exploited fish species are in danger of extinction over the region as a whole, local depletion of commercially important species has become a problem and the productivity of fisheries in the Amazon has dropped significantly after an initial boom during the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

The expansion of commercial fishing activities may have also affected the catch by subsistence or artisanal fishermen among the local indigenous communities.

To learn more about the FAO’s findings, take a look at http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/DOCREP/003/X6848E/X6848E00.HTM

Below is capture production data for some selected aquarium species and types of tropical freshwater fish. All figures from the FAO’s Review of the State of World Marine Fishery Resources.

REGION / SPECIES (All figures in metric tonnes) 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
AFRICA
Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus 177,072 157,714 188,056 175,846 204,350 205,353 207,572
Tilapias nei Oreochromis (=Tilapia) spp 157,482 169,253 171,638 196,812 210,928 218,209 213,412
Mouthbrooding cichlids Haplochromis spp 10,472 13,053 13,077 10,731 11,699 9,695 8,759
Cichlids nei Cichlidae 21,500 21,500 21,500 40,341 40,500 42,033 42,392
Knifefishes Notopterus spp 10 1 144 33 39 22 19
Elephantsnout fishes Mormyridae 4,481 18,781 16,030 7,691 24,509 12,567
Aba Gymnarchus niloticus 1,108 3,952 7,685 5,887 9,097
Upsidedown catfishes Synodontis spp 9,267 11,560 13,384 12,856 12,571 13,737 12,827
Snakeheads Channa spp 92,186 2,589 2,038 2,990 2,951 3,313
SOUTH AMERICA
Velvety cichlids Astronotus spp 308 177 141 251 188 183
Cichlids nei Cichlidae 8,565 8,356 7,785 7,375 8,145 13,611 13,946
Arapaima Arapaima gigas 457 465 210 338 273 204
Cachama Colossoma macropomum 4,991 3,600 3,014 3,921 5,928 4,693 4,068
Pirapatinga Piaractus brachypomus 397 166 648 324 487
Characins nei Characidae 115,490 102,456 101,018 92,195 93,360 44,935 44,974
ASIA
Knifefishes Notopterus spp 3,880 3,455 3,599 3,845 4,255 3,820 3,800
Glass catfishes Kryptopterus spp 17,560 15,938 13,943 15,927 13,110 13,522 14,980
Pangas catfishes nei Pangasius spp 541 522 917 1,061 1,274 1,100 1,200
Climbing perch Anabas testudineus 3,905 3,754 4,637 6,340 6,730 5,800 6,300
Snakeskin gourami Trichogaster pectoralis 30,792 21,728 22,422 23,776 22,456 21,357 20,940
Kissing gourami Helostoma temminckii 12,611 18,376 16,598 23,320 18,771 19,429 20,140
Snakehead Channa argus 169 120 28
Striped snakehead Channa striata 30,966 28,646 21,520 23,784 26,839 24,998 25,988
Indonesian snakehead Channa micropeltes 11,614 10,117 8,253 8,787 8,149 6,357 6,440
Snakeheads Channa spp 127,429 136,830 185,453 86,877 92,245 90,270 77,200
Scats Scatophagus spp 169 95 20 40 61 55 30

Related links:
Tropical freshwater aquarium fish
Freshwater aquarium fish under threat in the wild
FAO’s Fisheries Department